One of the leaders of the convoy protest that occupied downtown Ottawa for three weeks last month was in court Wednesday, hoping to overturn an earlier judicial decision that she be held without bail until her trial on the charges of counselling to commit the offence of mischief and committing mischief.
Tamara Lich, 49, of Medicine Hat, Alta., asked Ontario Superior Court Justice Hon. John M. Johnston to overturn a ruling made by a lower court judge, Ontario Court Justice Julie Bourgeois, that Lich be held without bail.
After more than six hours of testimony and arguments, Justice Johnston reserved his decision until Monday, March 7. Lich, who has been in detention since Feb. 17 will remain in jail at least until then.
One of the points that Lich made in an affidavit she put before Justice Johnston to support her application was that she learned after her bail hearing that the bail judge, Justice Bourgeois, was a candidate in the 2011 general election for the Liberal Party of Canada and, according to her affidavit, she learned Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau praised Bourgeois’ candidacy at the time.
Bourgeois was appointed to the court in 2015 by the provincial government of Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne.
During oral arguments in court, Lich’s lawyer, Diane Magas, said this fact created “a reasonable apprehension of bias” though Magas, in response to a question from Justice Johnston, said this was “not the strongest argument” she had in seeking a bail review.
Justice Johnston said such suggesting a judge was biased was “a very serious allegation to make.”
Judges are randomly assigned to hear cases in both the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice.
Superior Court Justice Johnston was appointed to the bench by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper in 2010 and was a candidate for the Progressive Conservatives in the riding of Leeds-Grenville in the 2000 general election. Johnston lost to the Liberal candidate.
Email and phone messages to the Court seeking additional comment from Justice Johnston or his staff were not returned.
Crown counsel Moiz Karimjee told the court the allegation of judicial bias was “baseless, vexatious, frivolous.”
Karimjee also argued that while Justice Bourgeois did indeed deny bail to Lich, she did grant bail to her fellow convoy leader Chris Barber.
Karimjee argued that Barber, who appeared next to Lich at news conferences and other events during the three-week Parliament Hill occupation, shared the same views about the Trudeau government that Lich held.
Barber, 46, is also charged with counselling to commit mischief as well as counselling to commit the offence of disobeying a court order and counselling to commit the offence of obstructing police. Bourgeois released him on a $100,000 bail and he promised to return to his home in Swift Current, Sask.
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Lich also emphasized her Métis Indigeneity in her bail review, something that was not done in her bail hearing.
That could force Justice Johnston to consider what is known as the Gladue Principle, a legal principle established as a result of a 1999 case called Gladue.
That decision requires all judges to place the Indigeneity of an accused or convicted person against the history of racism and colonialism experienced by Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Lich is one of 122 individuals charged with Ontario provincial offences in connection with the Ottawa occupation. The Ottawa police though have only named five of those charged:
- Lich, charged with counselling to commit mischief, remains in an Ottawa jail.
- Barber, facing three charges, is free on bail.
- Pat King, 44, of Red Deer, AB, faces three charges including counselling to commit mischief, counselling to disobey a court order, counselling to obstruct police. His bail was denied and remains in an Ottawa jail.
- Tyson Billings, 44, of High Prairie, AB, faces five charges including mischief, counselling to commit mischief, counselling to disobey court order, obstruct police, and counselling to obstruct police. He, too, was denied bail and remains in jail.
- Steeve Charland, 48, of Grenville, QC faces two charges of mischief and counselling mischief. Charland has been in jail since his arrest on Feb. 26 and will be in court Thursday to seek bail.